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San Diego, CA BAH Rates, Housing, Education, & Cost of Living

Discover San Diego BAH Rates, Housing, Education, & Cost-of-Living

Find housing, employment, cost-of-living, and BAH rates for San Diego, CA. Listed below are BAH Rates, college and universities, cost-of-living information, school resources for children of military families, and things to see and do in the San Diego area.

San Diego is a major metropolitan area in California, home port of the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet, and Naval Base San Diego.

Some of the military installations in California include:

San Diego, CA BAH Rate Calculator


San Diego BAH Rates

E1 $3,579 $2,684
E2 $3,579 $2,684
E3 $3,579 $2,684
E4 $3,579 $2,684
E5 $3,882 $2,964
E6 $4,320 $3,240
E7 $4,344 $3,534
E8 $4,353 $3,972
E9 $4,491 $4,101
W1 $4,341 $3,396
W2 $4,350 $3,969
W3 $4,362 $4,119
W4 $4,545 $4,320
W5 $4,785 $4,332
O1e $4,347 $3,879
O2e $4,356 $4,071
O3e $4,581 $4,314
O1 $3,939 $3,153
O2 $4,317 $3,759
O3 $4,359 $4,161
O4 $4,869 $4,323
O5 $5,244 $4,335
O6 $5,289 $4,338
O7 $5,334 $4,404

Local Colleges & Universities

The San Diego area is home to several colleges and universities. This is a partial list.

The state of California offers a College Fee Waiver for Veteran Depends benefit program that waives tuition and fees for public colleges and universities throughout the state. Discover more information about the multiple plans offered under this program.

To find more San Diego area schools, use the free CollegeRecon School Finder tool.

Using your GI Bill

Anyone considering using the Post 9/11 GI Bill in San Diego should know the following:

  • You may be eligible for Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) if you are a full-time student.
  • MHA is comparable to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents.
  • MHA is calculated based on the zip code of where you physically attend most of your classes.
  • Those attending only online classes receive a set MHA of approximately $1,054 (in 2023)
  • Up to $1,000 is available each year for books and supplies.
  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill can be transferred to a spouse or dependent, but you must still be on active duty to transfer it.
  • The Yellow Ribbon Program offers financial support in specific situations where the GI Bill does not fully cover the cost of tuition at participating colleges

Cost of Living in San Diego

San Diego is considered to be one of the best places to live on the West Coast because of its access to 70 miles of beaches, Mediterranean climate, and proximity to other cities on the Southern California coast. Bestplaces gives San Diego a cost of living score of 154.9, which is 54.9 percent higher than the national average and 3.3 percent higher than the California average.

The cost of housing in San Diego is considerably higher than the national average, which has a significant impact on the overall cost of living in the city. The other categories that factor into the cost of living tend to be higher than both the state and national average, making San Diego an expensive city to live in.


  • Overall – 154.9
  • Housing – 278.4
  • Groceries – 109.7
  • Transportation – 120.2
  • Utilities – 102.2

Other categories to consider

  • Healthcare
  • Childcare
  • Taxes

San Diego Housing

San Diego is filled with dynamic, family-friendly neighborhoods that have something for everyone. Understanding the housing landscape of a new city is important when deciding where to live. According to RentCafe, the average rent in San Diego was $2,997 in 2023.

While San Diego is known for its high cost of living, it is still possible to find reasonable rent prices in great neighborhoods. Some of the most affordable and safe neighborhoods currently include:

  • Carmel Valley – $2,041 median rent price
  • Rancho Bernardo – $1,732 median rent price
  • Rancho Penasquitos – $1,678 median rent price
  • Sabre Springs – $2,233 median rent price
  • Scripps Ranch – $1,666 median rent price

Other desirable neighborhoods in San Diego include Barrio Logan, Imperial Beach, La Jolla, Hillcrest, and Ocean Beach & Point Loma. These neighborhoods are highly rated for their atmosphere, amenities, and overall experience.

According to Realtor.com, the average sale price of a home as of March 2024 is approximately $995,000. San Diego is currently rated a seller’s market, which means that there are more people looking to buy homes than currently available on the market.

To learn more about VA Loan Program benefits, you can get a free eligibility assessment from our VA loan partner.

Primary Education

For families with school-age children, living in an area that has high quality primary schools is important as it can affect children’s educational outcomes. Even for families without children, the quality of the schools in the area can affect the value of housing prices. The San Diego area is home to many top-rated primary schools and school districts. According to Greatschools.org some of the best primary schools include:

  • Green Elementary School
  • Mt. Everest Academy
  • Elevate Elementary
  • Holmes Elementary School
  • San Diego Global Vision Academy

Note that there are currently no DoDEA schools in the San Diego area, but military parents of school aged children can learn more about the primary education landscape through the Naval Base in San Diego.

Employment Opportunities in San Diego

San Diego has a thriving economy that is home to a diverse set of industries offering employment opportunities for professionals of various backgrounds. According to San Diego Department of Economic Development, the following sectors are the backbone of the local economy:

  • International Trade
  • Manufacturing
  • Military
  • Tourism

The largest employers in the San Diego area include the U.S Navy, University of San Diego, Cubic Corporation, Pulse Electronics, Scripps Health, Sony, and Sanyo.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in San Diego as of February 2024 is 4.7 percent.

Things to See and Do in San Diego

San Diego is situated on the Pacific coast and is famous for its warm weather, beautiful beaches, and plethora of outdoor activities. The city is full of fun things to do, a thriving arts and culture scene, and a vibrant culinary culture.

Some of the top things to do in San Diego include:

  • Spending a day at the famous San Diego Zoo that is known for its wonderful wildlife, Safari Park, and world-renowned conservation efforts
  • Learning more about San Diego’s important role in military history by visiting the USS Midway Museum
  • Visit the iconic Balboa Park, which is known as San Diego’s cultural hub. While there you can enjoy the botanical gardens, the Spanish-Renaissance architecture, 17 museums, and 1200 acres of beauty and culture.
  • Have a day of fun in the sun at Coronado Beach, considered one of the best beaches in the country.
  • Enjoy a peaceful day surrounded by nature at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve



About the author

Sarah Tucci

Sarah is a Philadelphia-based writer. She comes to CollegeRecon with an interdisciplinary background in international relations and cultural heritage with an interest in understanding the intersection of armed conflict and cultural heritage, particularly in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. When not writing for CollegeRecon, Sarah enjoys traveling, watching documentaries, and hanging out with her beloved Pitbull, Brutus.